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11 Stately Facts About Barry Lyndon

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Stanley Kubrick is almost universally regarded as one of the great American directors thanks to films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining. But while many movie lovers can happily quote or describe in complete detail entire scenes from those films, we all too often forget about Barry Lyndon. Like all of Kubrick’s films, it is completely distinct from everything else in his filmography, a slow-burning period piece that’s still being picked apart by cinephiles today, and continues to grow in esteem year after year.

In honor of the film’s 40th anniversary, here are 11 facts about Barry Lyndon.

1. IT GREW OUT OF STANLEY KUBRICK’S DESIRE TO ADAPT VANITY FAIR.

Kubrick had long been a fan of William Makepeace Thackeray, and at one point had considered adapting his masterpiece Vanity Fair for the screen. Ultimately, Kubrick “decided the story could not be successfully compressed into the relatively short time-span of a feature film,” and abandoned the idea. By the time he got around to Barry Lyndon, though, he’d found the Thackeray work he wanted to film.

2. KUBRICK’S OBSESSION WITH NAPOLEON CAME IN HANDY.

Throughout his career, Kubrick longed to make a film about the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom he was fascinated. It never happened, but the copious amounts of period research he did on Napoleon’s life and times did help him achieve the accuracy he so desired when it came time to make Barry Lyndon.

3. KUBRICK MAINTAINED HIGH LEVELS OF SECRECY TO AVOID THE PRESS.

At the time he made Barry Lyndon, Kubrick was fresh off A Clockwork Orange, a film that generated a tremendous amount of controversy because of its extreme violence. So, when making his next film, Kubrick told the press almost nothing about it, except who it starred. Even co-star Marisa Berenson, who played Lady Lyndon, was initially only told the film was set in the 18th century, and that she should avoid sunlight to achieve the pale complexion necessary for the period.

4. THE FILM’S LOOK WAS HEAVILY INSPIRED BY PERIOD PAINTINGS.

To achieve the film’s elaborate 17th-century compositions, Kubrick and his cinematographer John Alcott looked to the painters of the day for inspirations, specifically Jean-Antoine Watteau, Thomas Gainsborough, and William Hogarth.

5. KUBRICK WAS SO INTENT ON ACCURACY, HE SOUGHT OUT ACTUAL 18TH-CENTURY CLOTHING.

Perhaps more than any other filmmaker, Kubrick is famous for his almost obsessive attention to detail—and Barry Lyndon is a perfect example of that. In addition to ample research on the period in which the film takes place, and lots of art study to get the look right, he sought out actual clothing from the time, which he acquired via museums, so that even the extras looked perfect.

6. KUBRICK GOT SPECIAL LENSES SO HE COULD FILM BY CANDLELIGHT.

All period dramas feature rooms that appear to be lit by candles and oil lamps, but in reality there are usually big lighting rigs just off camera. That wasn’t the case with Barry Lyndon. Kubrick and Alcott wanted to use as little electric light in the production as possible, and went so far as to get special lenses that had been designed for NASA, which he had specially mounted on cameras that could then be used only with those lenses. The super-fast lenses captured rooms lit only by candlelight perfectly, creating a look unlike any other film.

7. THE CAST AND CREW ENDURED A VERY LONG SHOOT (PARTLY BECAUSE OF THOSE CANDLES).

While reminiscing about the film last year, star Ryan O’Neal (Barry Lyndon) recalled that the shoot was “something like 350 days” (a lot of movies don’t make it past 90 days). Why? Well, the reason seems to have been more than just Kubrick’s reputation for perfectionism. According to co-star Leon Vitali (Lord Bullingdon), Kubrick didn’t plan his shots beforehand, preferring instead to see what his actors would do and then build the scene around that. So, “you’d have to go through the scene 10, 15, 20, 30 times while he looked at every possibility with every lens and figured out his first shot.” The candles Kubrick insisted on using to light the interior scenes also caused trouble, because they had to be replaced every time they burned down.

“The problem was that if we didn’t get the take we had to blow all the candles out and start with new ones,” O’Neal said. “And the candles all had three wicks, that was our trick. So it wasn’t easy to blow them out!”

8. THE FILM’S CASTING PRODUCED A LIFELONG WORKING RELATIONSHIP.

When Leon Vitali was cast as the older version of Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon, he probably had no idea that he would continue working with Kubrick for the rest of the director’s life, and beyond. By the time Kubrick was making The Shining, Vitali was his personal assistant, a position he also held on Kubrick’s final two films, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut (he’s also credited as a casting director on both of those films). Even after Kubrick died in 1999, Vitali continued to supervise restoration of the director’s films for DVD releases.

9. THE FILM FEATURES A KUBRICK FAMILY CAMEO.

Kubrick’s daughter Vivian, who would go on to make the famous behind-the-scenes documentary about The Shining a few years later, appears in the magic show scene.

10. KUBRICK WAS SO PARTICULAR ABOUT HOW THE FILM LOOKED THAT HE SENT PROJECTIONISTS INSTRUCTIONS.

Kubrick, ever meticulous, wasn’t content to perfect every aspect of the film’s look in the way he filmed it. He also wanted as much control as possible over how audiences viewed Barry Lyndon, so in 1975 he sent a letter to projectionists showing the film with specific instructions on aspect ratio, lighting, and even what music must be played during the intermission.

11. IT’S ONE OF KUBRICK’S MOST AWARDED FILMS.

After the successes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, Warner Bros. was eager to let Kubrick make whatever film he wanted next, but Barry Lyndon was a commercial disappointment in the end. Still, that didn’t stop the acclaim. It’s tied with Spartacus for the Kubrick film with the most Oscars, at four (Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Musical Score), and in recent years it has enjoyed a kind of critical renaissance, making both the Village Voice’s 100 Best Films of the 20th Century and TIME’s 100 Best Films Since 1923 lists.

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Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May
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Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.

MAY 1

27: Gone Too Soon

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana

Amelie

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1

Beautiful Girls

Darc

God's Own Country

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City

Mr. Woodcock

My Perfect Romance

Pocoyo & Cars

Pocoyo & The Space Circus

Queens of Comedy: Season 1

Reasonable Doubt

Red Dragon

Scream 2

Shrek

Simon: Season 1

Sliding Doors

Sometimes

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Carter Effect

The Clapper

The Reaping

The Strange Name Movie

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2

MAY 2

Jailbreak

MAY 4

A Little Help with Carol Burnett

Anon

Busted!: Season 1

Dear White People: Volume 2

End Game

Forgive Us Our Debts

Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2

Manhunt

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey

No Estoy Loca

The Rain: Season 1

MAY 5

Faces Places

MAY 6

The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale

MAY 8

Desolation

Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives

MAY 9

Dirty Girl

MAY 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3

Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Spirit Riding Free: Season 5

The Kissing Booth

The Who Was? Show: Season 1

MAY 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

MAY 14

The Phantom of the Opera

MAY 15

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4

Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14

Only God Forgives

The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16

MAY 16

89

Mamma Mia!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The Kingdom

Wanted

MAY 18

Cargo

Catching Feelings

Inspector Gadget: Season 4

MAY 19

Bridge to Terabithia

Disney’s Scandal: Season 7

Small Town Crime

MAY 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

MAY 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

MAY 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1

Shooter: Season 2

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2

Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here

MAY 23

Explained

MAY 24

Fauda: Season 2

Survivors Guide to Prison

MAY 25

Ibiza

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

The Toys That Made Us: Season 2

Trollhunters: Part 3

MAY 26

Sara's Notebook

MAY 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf

MAY 29

Disney·Pixar's Coco

MAY 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4

MAY 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern

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20 Best Docuseries You Can Stream Right Now
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
Netflix

If your main interests are true crime and cooking, you’re in the middle of a Renaissance Age. The Michelangelos of nonfiction are consistently bringing stellar storytelling to twisty tales of murder and mayhem as well as luxurious shots of food prepared by the most creative culinary minds.

But these aren’t the only genres that documentary series are tackling. There’s a host of history, arts, travel, and more at your streaming fingertips. When you want to take a break from puzzling out who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, that is.

Here are the 20 best docuseries to watch right now, so start streaming.

1. WILD WILD COUNTRY (2018)

What happens when an Indian guru with thousands of American followers sets up shop near a small town in Oregon with the intent to create a commune? Incredibly sourced, this documentary that touches on every major civic issue—from religious liberty to voting rights—should be your new obsession. When you choose a side, be prepared to switch. Multiple times.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. FLINT TOWN (2018)

If your heart is broken by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, be prepared to have that pain magnified and complicated. The filmmakers behind this provocative series were embedded with police in Flint to offer us a glimpse at the area’s local struggles and national attention from November 2015 through early 2017.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA (2013)

Narrated by Meryl Streep, this three-part series covers a half-century of American experience from the earliest days of second-wave feminism through Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination in the 1990s. Ellen DeGeneres, Condoleezza Rice, Sally Ride, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and more are featured, and the series got six more episodes in a second season.

Where to watch it: Makers.com

4. THE JINX (2015)

After the massive success of Serial in 2014, a one-two punch of true crime docuseries landed the following year. One was the immensely captivating study of power, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the bizarre, tangled web of the real estate mogul who was suspected of several murders. The show, which could be measured in jaw-drops per hour, both registered real life and uniquely affected it.

Where to watch it: HBO

5. MAKING A MURDERER (2015)

The second major true crime phenom of 2015 was 10 years in the making. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos uncovered the unthinkable story of Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of sexual assault who was later convicted of murdering a different woman, Teresa Halbach. Not just a magnifying glass on the justice system and a potential small town conspiracy, it’s also a display of how stories can successfully get our blood boiling.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. WORMWOOD (2017)

Speaking of good conspiracies: documentary titan Errol Morris turns his keen eye to a CIA project that’s as famous as it is unknown—MKUltra. A Cold War-era mind control experiment. LSD and hypnosis. The mysterious death of a scientist. His son’s 60-year search for answers. Morris brings his incisive eye to the hunt.

Where to watch it: Netflix

7. FIVE CAME BACK (2017)

Based on Mark Harris’s superlative book, this historical doc features filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro discussing the WWII-era work of predecessors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Also narrated by Meryl Streep, it looks at how the war shaped the directors and how they shaped the war. As a bonus, Netflix has the war-time documentaries featured in the film available to stream.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (2011)

If you can’t afford film school, and your local college won’t let you audit any more courses, Mark Cousins’s 915-minute history is the next best thing. Unrivaled in its scope, watching it is like having a charming encyclopedia discuss its favorite movies. Yes, at 15-episodes it’s sprawling, so, yes, you should watch it all in one go. Carve out a weekend and be ready to take notes on all the movies you want to watch afterward.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

9. UGLY DELICIOUS (2018)

David Chang, the host of the first season of The Mind of a Chef, has returned with a cultural mash-up disguised as a foodie show. What does it mean for pizza to be “authentic”? What do Korea and the American South have in common? With his casual charm in tow, Chang and a variety of special guests explore people through the food we love to eat as an artifact that brings us all together.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. JAZZ (2000)

A legend of nonfiction, Ken Burns has more than a few docuseries available to stream, including long-form explorations of the Civil War and baseball. His 10-episode series on jazz exhaustively tracks nearly a century of the formation and evolution of the musical style across the United States. You’ll wanna mark off a big section of the calendar and crank up the volume.

Where to watch it: Amazon

11. THE STAIRCASE (2004)

In 2001, author Michael Peterson reported to police that his wife had died after falling down a set of stairs, but police didn’t buy the story and charged him with her murder. Before the current true crime boom, before Serial and all the rest, there was Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s Peabody Award-winning docuseries following Peterson’s winding court case. The mystery at the heart of the trial and the unparalleled access Lestrade had to Peterson’s defense make this a must-see. (Netflix just announced that it will be releasing three new episodes of the series this summer.)

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

12. PLANET EARTH II (2016)

The sequel to the 2006 original is a real stunner. Narrated (naturally) by Sir David Attenborough, featuring music from Hans Zimmer, and boasting gorgeous photography of our immeasurably fascinating planet, this follow-up takes us through different terrains to see the life contained within. There are snow leopards in the mountains, a swimming sloth in the islands, and even langurs in our own urban jungle. Open your eyes wide to learn a lot or put it on in the background to zen out.

Where to watch it: Netflix

13. THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA (2009)

The cheapest way to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, Muir Woods, and more. This Emmy-winning, six-part series is both a travelogue and a history lesson in conservation that takes up the argument of why these beautiful places should be preserved: to quote President Roosevelt, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Where to watch it: Amazon

14. CONFLICT (2015)

Experience the too-often-untold stories of conflict zones through the lenses of world class photographers like Nicole Tung, Donna Ferraro, and João Silva. This heart-testing, bias-obliterating series is unique in its views into dark places and eye toward hope.

Where to watch it: Netflix

15. LAST CHANCE U (2016)

Far more than a sports documentary, the story of the players at East Mississippi Community College will have you rooting for personal victories as much as the points on the scoreboard. Many of the outstanding players on the squad lost spots at Division I schools because of disciplinary infractions or failing academics, so they’re seeking redemption in a program that wants them to return to the big-name schools. There are two full seasons to binge and a third on the way.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. VICE (2013)

Currently in its sixth season, the series is known for asking tough questions that need immediate answers and giving viewers a street-level view of everything from killing cancer to juvenile justice reform. Its confrontational style of gonzo provocation won’t be everyone’s cup of spiked tea, but it’s filling an important gap that used to be filled by major network investigative journalists. When they let their subjects—from child soldiers suffering PTSD after fighting for ISIS to coal miners in Appalachia—tell their stories, nonfiction magic happens.

Where to watch it: HBO

17. CHEF’S TABLE (2015)

From David Gelb, the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this doc series is a backstage pass to the kitchens of the world’s most elite chefs. The teams at Osteria Francescana, Blue Hill, Alinea, Pujol, and more open their doors to share their process, culinary creativity, and, of course, dozens of delicious courses. No shame in licking your screen.

Where to watch it: Netflix

18. NOBU’S JAPAN (2014)

For those looking to learn more about culture while chowing down, world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa guides guest chefs to different regions of Japan to ingest the sights, sounds, and spirits of the area before crafting a dish inspired by the journey. History is the main course, with a healthy dash of culinary invention that honors tradition.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

19. THE SYSTEM (2014)

Should a jury decide if a child is sentenced to life in jail without parole? How can you go to jail for 20 years for shooting your gun inside your own home to deter thieves? These are just two of the questions examined by this knockout series about the conflicts, outdated methods, and biases lurking in America’s criminal justice system. Insightful and infuriating, it makes a strong companion to Ava DuVernay’s 13th.

Where to watch it: Al Jazeera and Sundance Now

20. BOBBY KENNEDY FOR PRESIDENT (2018)

It won’t be available until April 27 (so close!), but it’s well worth adding to your queue. This four-part series utilizes a wealth of footage, including unseen personal videos, to share the tragic story of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for president in the context of an era riven by racial strife. Watching this socio-political memorial told by many who were there (including Marian Wright and Congressman John Lewis), it will be impossible not to draw connections to the current day and wonder: What if?

Where to watch it: Netflix

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